Conquest of Egypt

A 7th-century Description

This passage was written by John of Nikiu, who worked for the Egyptian Church in the 7th century. His history was probably written in Coptic, but it survives today only in Ge’ez (Ethiopic) via an Arabic translation.

1. And ‘Amr the chief of the Moslems spent twelve months in warring against the Christians of Northern Egypt, but failed nevertheless in reducing their cities. 2. And in the fifteenth year of the cycle, during the summer, he marched on the cities of Sakā and Tūkū-Dāmsis, being impatient to subdue the Egyptians before the rise of the river. But he was unable to do them any hurt. 3. And in the city of Damietta they also refused to admit him, and he sought to burn their crops. 4. And he began to march back to the troops that were in the fortress of Babylon in Egypt, And he gave them all the booty which he had taken from the city of Alexandria. 5. And he destroyed the houses of the Alexandrians who had fled, and he took their wood and iron and gave orders for the construction of a road from the fortress of Babylon to the city of the two rivers, in order that they might burn that city with fire. 6. And the inhabitants of that city on hearing of this project took to flight with their possessions, and abandoned their city, and the Moslem burned that city with fire. But the inhabitants of that city came by night and extinguished the fire. 7. And the Moslem marched against other cities to war against them, and they despoiled the Egyptians of their possessions and dealt cruelly with them. 8. But the generals Theodore and Domentianus were unable to do any injury to the inhabitants of the city on account of the Moslem who were amongst them.

9. And ‘Amr left lower Egypt and proceeded to war against Rīf. He sent a few Moslems against the city of Antinoe. And when the Moslems saw the weakness of the Romans and the hostility of the people to the emperor Heraclius because of the persecution wherewith he had visited all the land of Egypt in regard to the orthodox faith, at the instigation of Cyrus the Chalcedonian patriarch, they became bolder and stronger in the war. 10. And the inhabitants of the city (Antinoe) sought to concert measures with John their prefect with a view to attacking the Moslems; but he refused, and arose with haste with his troops, and, having collected all the imposts of the city, betook himself to Alexandria; for he knew that he could not resist the Moslems, and (he feared) lest he should meet with the same fate as the garrison of Fajūm, 11. Indeed, all the inhabitants of the province submitted to the Moslem, and paid them tribute. And they put to the sword all the Roman soldiers whom they encountered. And the Roman soldiers were in a fortress, and the Moslem besieged them, and captured their catapults, and demolished their towers, and dislodged them from the fortress. 12. And they strengthened the fortress of Babylon, and they captured the city of Nakius and made themselves strong there.


A 10th-century Description

This passage is from an Arabic history written by Tabari, a famous Muslim living in 10th-century Iran. He compiled one of the most influential histories of the early Islamic period.